Thursday, August 9, 2012

Envy and My Jewish Viewpoint

The Lights of Shabbat ... I look forward to you tomorrow ...
I am not sure why I noticed this particular week but as I interacted with several friends and acquaintances, it became obvious that many families are fortunate to have extended family to help with their kids - usually a grandparent. Some of the assistance is close by but not always and it takes on many, many forms. I told a Dear Friend that I felt envy. Dear Friend was, of course,  comforting (that is why she is so dear.) I decided to unpack this emotion.

Envy - A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.

I looked for a Jewish viewpoint (by looked I mean Google.)

"Judaism does not see Envy as the embodiment of absolute evil, but rather as an emotion that, 
on the one hand, demonstrates the weakness and vulnerability of human character 
and, on the other, is rather beneficial to humankind's development."

To me, Reform Judaism provides a pragmatic approach to life which is one reason why I chose to be part of a Jewish community. While envious, I am only a vulnerable human. More Comfort.

BUT there is never only one Jewish viewpoint. Reform Judaism gives me a framework to arrive at my own conclusion from thousands of years of great teachings.

"Solomon b. Judah Ibn Gabirol of Cordova was one of the greatest medieval Spanish Jewish poets (first half of 11th century) .One of Gabirol’s earliest literary works, Mibhar ha-Peninim (The Choice of Pearls), was a small book of maxims derived almost entirely from non-Jewish sources. This very popular publication, written originally in Arabic, enjoyed enduring popularity throughout Israel in its later Hebrew translation."

"Envy is to men like bodily ailments – it leads to consumption. I have not seen 
one who hurts himself more than does the envious person; 
his mourning is unceasing, his soul grieves, his intellect deteriorates and his heart is disquieted."

Yes, I can see this a problematic as well. Unchecked, envy can eat a person's soul. But ... I do not think I have this over-consuming position of envy. It is more of an acknowledgement of something missing from my life. Everyone has missing parts - this is just mine. And really, I have built a life with lots of amazing substitutes and alternate approaches for which I am so thoroughly gratefulGetting closer to comfortable.

Gabirol also wrote in his The Choice of Pearls:

"Everybody can eat with satisfaction except the man who envies good fortune; 
for he is only pleased by the misfortune (of others)."

Okay, this is NOT how I feel. I am so glad for those who have that grandparent or family member ever present in their child's life. It is a gift beyond words. While the boys are far from having their own families, it has made me think about how I want to be there for them and possibly for other family members of the next generation. But in a way that is on their own terms - for it will be their life to live not mine.

So this is My Jewish Viewpoint on Envy. I am comforted ... for the moment.


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